If there’s anyone that could figure out how to brew coffee under water, Brandi Mueller would be it. Intelligent, adventurous, and tenacious, faced with a challenge Brandi would surely be up for it. If you follow her scuba diving on Instagram or if you have stumbled upon her photos online, it’s easy to see that discovery and adventure come as second nature to Brandi. Knowing there’s more to the story than the photos show we reached out to learn more.

How did you get started as an underwater photographer, scuba diving instructor, and boat captain?
I learned how to scuba dive in New Zealand when I was 15 as a foreign exchange student (the travel bug hit me early.) I worked my way up to Divemaster in college and became a dive instructor right after I graduated. While working on boats while instructing and guiding, learning to be a captain just sort of happened in the progression.

Brandi Mueller

Photo Credit: Brandi Mueller

Incredible! So where have all of your travels taken you?
I’ve been really lucky in traveling. Dive jobs brought me to the Caribbean, Hawaii, Turks and Caicos, Papua New Guinea and more. Underwater photography and journalism have taken me to even more epic dive locals like Borneo, Malawi, Indonesia and others. I love traveling and basically everything I do involves traveling more or working towards traveling more.

Top 5 favorite spots for under water beauty?
That’s so hard! Every place is beautiful in its own way, it really depends what you want to see. So, let’s see…if I have to choose:

1.Chuuk, Micronesia
I love wreck diving, so Chuuk, Micronesia (formerly known as Truk Lagoon) was the site of a huge WWII battle that left many ships, planes, and other war artifacts in the ocean. The warm, healthy waters of Mirconesia have transformed these ships of former destruction into “shipreefs” covered in pretty soft corals and swarming with fish and other marine life.

2. Lembeh Strait
For the tiny and crazy critters, Lembeh Strait is a non-stop treasure hunt for nudibranchs (little, colorful slugs of the ocean), pretty crabs, seahorses, cuttlefish, frogfish, etc.

3. Dominican Republic 
Snorkeling with humpback whales in the Dominican Republic was so beautiful it’s almost on the level of spiritual.

4. Iceland
I dived the crack between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates in Iceland. You can touch both at one point. Icy cold glacier water filtered through miles of volcanic rock make this spring-fed area have water as clear as gin. It’s like swimming through a canyon that’s so clear you might not be underwater…except you’re reminded by the cold.

5. Little Cayman 
Little Cayman, part of the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean has these amazing sheer wall drop-offs loaded with coral, sponges and fish. It feels like the beauty just goes on and on and on…

My list could go on and on…. 🙂

Ha! Those are all incredible! Dare I ask your favorite places on land?!
I love hiking too, although lately have been doing far more diving than hiking lately. I love the Hawaiian Islands, I love the contrast of ocean and mountains. Little Cayman makes this list too, there is a hammock there that is the hammock of my dreams. 🙂 So many amazing places really, it’s hard to choose just a few.

Brandi Mueller

Photo Credit: Brandi Mueller

What’s people’s #1 hesitation to scuba-dive? I’ve seen Jaws one too many times, so I know my reservations…
Noooooooo don’t be afraid of sharks! Trust me, they have far more to be afraid of us than we of them. Sharks are generally quite shy and either stay away from divers or pay no attention to us. After a few dives you’d be hoping to see sharks just like the rest of us. For some it’s a fear of water/swimming or claustrophobia. But both are easy to over-come for those willing to try. Underwater you can see everything, so most people become more comfortable while diving than say, just swimming on the surface unable to see what’s below. You also don’t have to be a super strong swimmer for most diving conditions. BCDs, the jacket you wear helps control your buoyancy (if you are floating, sinking, or neither…you want neither during the dive) and fins help give you extra power while swimming.

Makes sense when I’m on land! So about underwater, any favorite moments?
So many. One is jumping in with orcas in South Africa and another is a night dive where there was so much bioluminescence (glowing microorganisms, think fireflies of the ocean) it was like swimming through glitter. Basically all moments underwater are good though, I’m happier below.

What do you wish more people knew about the ocean?
That they are in trouble and everything we do, even when living in landlocked areas, affects the oceans. We need to start caring today (yesterday, really).

Brandi Mueller

Photo Credit: Brandi Mueller

Are there any ocean clean-up initiatives, like Boyan Slat’s project, that you’re particularly found of?
I actually just came back from a dive trip to Borneo staying and diving with a company called Scuba Junkie. They are making the ocean and environment a number one priority in their business and I really admire what they are doing. They have two, on staff, environmental officers who lead turtle, shark, and marine research and they involve the guests, the island residents, Malaysian university students and local kids. The resort runs as environmentally correct as possible from recycling (not an easy feat on a tiny island in Malaysia), water catchment and solar heating, composting, to teaching divers and expecting already trained divers to not cause any damage while diving (i.e. touching things, kicking the reef with fins, etc.). The concept seems like a no brainier, but not many places are making these efforts.

Brandi Mueller

Photo Credit: Brandi Mueller

Any mottos and or advice you live by or like to share?
Life is short, do the things you want to do. You won’t regret it and you might not get another chance.

That’s great advice! So what would you be doing if you weren’t scuba-diving?
I studied Tropical Medicine in graduate school and used to do mosquito-born disease research including the genetics of dengue virus? There was usually good diving where ever there was/is dengue…. So I might be doing that, maybe someday I will be again, who knows?

Wow. A pretty proper alternative!

If you could have coffee with any 3 people, who would it be?

Have we figured out how to drink coffee underwater yet?

Haha! Not sure but we’re gonna!
I bet Jacques Cousteau would be up for an espresso underwater.

Brandi Mueller

Photo Credit: Brandi Mueller

I’ve been obsessed with Alfred Wallace, the lesser-known naturalist who came up with the theory of evolution at pretty much the same time as Darwin. He traveled through the area I am right now and I wonder what he’d think about what we’ve done to it (garbage floating on the pristine waters, mega malls, exploding population growth, the replacement of the jungles he studies with palm oil plantations. I read his book, The Malay Archipelago, back during college. I bet he would have been great to travel with.

Nellie Bly. A woman journalist who set out to beat Jules Verne’s book character Phileas Fogg and actually travel around the world in 80 days in the last 1800s (She made it in 72.) There’s a book about her trip called, “Around the World in 80 Days“. She also pretended to be insane to get into an Asylum and reported on the unjust conditions, while just relying that someone would eventually get her out. I love her attitude that women can do whatever they want and incredibly inspirational given she did over 100 years ago in a time where even being a woman journalist would have not been anywhere close to the norm.

I will be a bit sappy…My grandfather. He passed away when I was quite young. I wonder what he’d think about what I’ve been up to.

That’s a great list. I bet your grandfather would be proud!

So what’s next for your adventures?!
I hope my photos and writing can help inspire people to care about the ocean (and make people want to dive.) We take care of the things we love and I want everyone toll was the ocean. Specifically I’m headed scuba diving in Komodo, Indonesia, I can’t wait!

Interested in more? Check out the Roatan Underwater Photo Festival September, 24th – October, 1st!
Follow Brandi’s adventures and her amazing underwater photography on her website | Witty commentary on her Facebook page: Brandi Underwater and of course Instagram account: @Brandi_Underwater